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New in Town: Virtual reality a ‘whole other new world’ in downtown Bradford

Want to shoot zombies, ride a giant roller-coaster, or disarm a bomb without leaving Bradford West Gwillimbury? Experience Toys and Games offers virtual-reality gaming

With a gun in one hand and a shield in the other, I point my weapon at the large, armour-covered orb that is flying through the air and shooting lasers at me.

I pull the trigger.

The alien object explodes, with chunks of metal falling at my feet.

I lift my shield to cover my body as more orbs appear that begin shooting at me. I can feel the beams bouncing off the shield, as I point my gun around the side and shoot back until my enemies explode.

A career as a space pirate might be right up my alley.

Brian Hayden, co-owner of Experience Toys and Games in downtown Bradford West Gwillimbury, recently invited me to try some virtual-reality games offered at the shop.

“You get lost in it. Some people get a little nauseous,” he said. “You’re in a whole other new world.”

And he was right.

The HTC Vive virtual-reality headset looks like a thick pair of goggles, with speakers that can flip down over your ears. The controls look like small, grey ping-pong paddles with a hole cut out of the middle.

The glass in the eye pieces looks like the strongest bifocals you have ever seen, until you put them on and you are suddenly transported to a completely different, seemingly 3D world that is crystal clear.

I tried out three of the most popular virtual-reality games out now: Space Pirate Trainer, Arizona Sunshine, and Love and Ping-Pong.

Although my virtual marksmanship skills were pretty good while playing Space Pirate Trainer, I was majorly lacking in the other two games.

The object of Arizona Sunshine is not to lounge in sunny weather in a southwestern U.S. state, rather to kill as many zombies as possible without being eaten at your desert campground.

I was the most nervous about playing this game because virtual reality feels so, well, real that the idea of transporting myself into an episode of The Walking Dead seemed like my worst nightmare.

Zombies coming at me to eat my brains and tear me apart? No thanks.

But I stood my ground, locked and loaded a virtual pistol and rifle, and started the game… only to discover the pressure of ensuing zombies makes me forget everything I know about how to use the virtual-reality controls.

Needless to say, it did not take me long to be consumed by zombies.

So if you want to know who to take with you into a zombie apocalypse — it ain’t me.

Watch my zombie panic here, with some girlish squeals when I get surprised by zombies about to attack.

The third game I tried was Love and Ping-Pong.

It is pretty much exactly what you might expect — you’re playing ping-pong, either against artificial intelligence in the game or a real-life opponent who is using a second virtual-reality headset.

As you would not want me as a companion in the zombie apocalypse, you would also not want to be my ping-pong partner.

It is a game I am not very good at in real life, so my virtual expectations were already very low. And I proved them right.

Hayden was patient explaining the rules to me, as he put on a headset so we could play against each other.

But as I repeatedly missed the ball, served over the white line, or shot the ping-pong across the virtual room, I could see his avatar bent over laughing at me. I don’t blame him one bit.

By the end of our games, I learned virtual reality is a ton of fun, even for less savvy gamers such as myself.

Word is getting around town about the virtual-reality games at Experience Toys, and Hayden said teenagers, couples in their 20s, and families have booked the store’s private room to play.

For $29.99 an hour, Hayden will rent virtual-reality gamers a private room, with access to two headsets and all his games — everything from disarming virtual bombs, to mini golf, to taking roller-coaster rides, to flying around the world using Google Earth, to slow Matrix-style shootouts with bad guys.

“We had a big group of 16 teenage boys come in (this week),” he said, with a laugh. “The high-school students are starting to know about it.”

You have to be at least eight years old to play, Hayden said, but one family has brought in their infant who plays with other age-appropriate toys available in the room while the others try out virtual reality.

“I tend to say six people (max). They can have more, but you’re not going to have much play time,” he said.

Hayden said he is now considering hosting regular virtual-reality game nights, with the possibility of having virtual mini-golf or ping-pong tournaments.

But for now, he is enjoying sharing the technology with the community.

“You almost forget you’re in there. It’s unreal,” he said.

For more information, visit Experience Toys and Games at 33 Holland St. E., call 905-551-8697, or visit the Facebook page

New in Town is a behind-the-scenes look at businesses and clubs in Bradford West Gwillimbury from the perspective of a person getting to know the community. Want to be featured? Email [email protected].

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Jenni Dunning

About the Author: Jenni Dunning

Jenni Dunning is a community editor and reporter who covers news in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.
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